Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: French Films Foster Fluency in French

(photo by: – image of famous, iconic French film “A bout de Souffle”)

It’s my first day of French 132 and I want to fall asleep to the sound of my professor’s voice. Or maybe that’s because it’s 7:40 p.m. and I’ve never taken a night class before. But time aside, our actual first class was supposed to be on Tuesday evening. Thanks to Winter Storm Janus’s impending doom that didn’t happen and I got to Duolingo my night away. Before any of us could address her as Madame Portier, she insisted that we call her Francesca (the Americanized version of Françoise). I always find it a little unsettling when a professor prefers to be addressed on a first-name basis, but here we are. With a riveting round of “Bonsoir, je m’appelle…” out of the way, we dove right into Francesca’s doctoral thesis topic: jazz in French film. Well, sort of. She mentioned it, receiving a chorus of “ooahs” and perky, first-day smiles.

Most of us were struggling to keep up with her perfect accent. I tried to remind myself that this was nothing new, nothing new. I stopped myself from mentally translating her French into English and, instead, let the words flow in their native form. My sleepiness aside, I think it worked. I always knew generally if not exactly what she was saying. I even answered a few questions. She then asked us to fill out a small survey about our interests outside of school. I was a little embarrassed to realize I’ve only seen three French films: Amélie, Le scaphandre et le papillon, et Le fantôme de l’opéra. The class compiled a list of at least 25 titles, which I hastily copied down in my notebook. The apparently popular and/or interesting ones I’ve yet to watch include: Léon, Delicatessen (“très bizarre!” she warned), et Le voyage dans la lune.

To my delight, she kicked things off by giving us a taste of French culture. Not literally (though I wouldn’t have minded un petit croissant avec un café between inevitable, très impoli yawns). We began the second hour of class by dabbling in the evolution of film. I was immediately excited about the change of pace. No grammar? No tedious vocabulary words thrown up on the chalkboard? What was this heaven? We began by comparing a short documentary from the 1890s (L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat) with a short comedy sketch from the same era (L’Arroseur arrosé). Then, we met Georges Méliès. His work was bizarre, quirky, and completely amazing — for the 1900s. He was one of the first filmmakers to use special effects, like multiple exposures and hand-painted color. A lot of it was experimental. A lot of us were laughing. Maybe I’m trop sérieuse, but I was in awe. Francesca joked about how we probably couldn’t wait to go home and download the entire movie from the internet, right? But that’s exactly what I plan to do with my Friday night. All good things must come to an end, I suppose. She closed class by telling us that Janus hasn’t snowed in our syllabus. Our first composition is due in class on Thursday. Apparently it will be a short one, though.

So, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Get more sleep on Wednesday night, because Thursday is my longest day (three classes plus working on The Daily Targum, our campus newspaper).

2. Eat dinner immediately before class, or at least bring some almonds, or something.

3. Finish watching Le voyage dans la lune, and about a dozen other French masterpieces.


I think that’s it. Happy spring semester!



Alexa Wybraniec

Alexa studies journalism, media and French at Rutgers University. She is abroad at Sciences Po for her third year of college. Check back every other Monday for a new post and connect on Twitter.


Marketing / Public Relations Student Internship Opportunity

Calling all marketing or public relations students who are looking for an internship! This is a great opportunity to flex those marketing / public relations muscles with the promotion of up-coming Paris study abroad/expat book “The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored” to be out April 2014. This internship will entail:

-Conducting research study with target market audience

-Helping to increase Twenty in Paris social media presence

-Securing and organizing press opportunities for the release of The Paris Diaries

This is a great opportunity for those spring semester marketing projects and experiences that your professors and future employers will be impressed that you have. This internship requires commitment and dedication. Only serious applicants please. If interested please contact Andrea Bouchaud via email at with subject title “Internship Opportunity”

Thanks and I look forward to working with you!


Study Abroad Interview with The Abroad Guide Founder on Her Experiences Abroad

Recently, I had the pleasure to interview study abroad tour de force and social media mogul, Jessica Dante, founder of The Abroad Guide about her experiences studying, living and dating abroad. Let’s find out what she had to say.

pic JD

(that’s Jess in Italy)

AB: Hi Jessica. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

JD: I studied Marketing at James Madison University in Virginia. I knew I wanted to study abroad before I even started college, and I ended up in Belgium because I was able to complete my first semester in the college of business there. I’m so glad I chose that program because Belgium is underrated!

AB: How did you prepare for studying abroad (the process of obtaining a visa, the experience of living abroad and being in a new school)? Did you find that your preparations were helpful in having realistic expectations of the study abroad experience?

JD: I didn’t require a visa for my study abroad experience, but to prepare I asked all of my older friends who had studied abroad in Europe for any advice they could give me. They were so helpful and sent pages of information and advice. I don’t think you can ever be completely prepared for study abroad– but that’s the fun of it!

AB: Did you experience the “study abroad blues” (the down moments during the transition process) and if so, how did you overcome those moments?

JD: I didn’t really– I’m not much of a homebody and I was having so much fun that I barely was homesick. In the first few weeks that I was abroad, I broke up with my boyfriend at the time who was still back at home, which was a bit tough, but after that I realized that the world really was my oyster and I had a fresh new perspective.

AB: How long did it take you to feel comfortable enough in your home country for you to start thinking of it as home?

JD: Honestly, only a couple of weeks. I had great people around me that I became close with really fast, and we explored Antwerp as much as we could so it became home quickly.

AB: Tell us a story about a funny cultural/linguistic misunderstanding you had while studying abroad and what did you learn from it?

JD: This was kind of funny– one night at the student bar, one of the other international students bluntly told me and my group of friends that he thinks Americans are all fat. But hey, relatively speaking, he was kind of right!

AB: Can you give us any advice on what it’s like to date someone from another country?

JD: It’s really fun actually! I love learning about new cultures and being different from other people, so learning about my now-husband’s cultural differences was (and still is) really interesting!

AB: Did you work while you were studying abroad? If so, can you tell us a little more about that (how many hours should students expect to work, rough pay- is there a minimum wage?, how soon should students start looking for a job- can this be too much during the transition process? , did you have to pay taxes as a foreign student?…)

JD: I didn’t work when I studied abroad. I don’t recommend for students to in fact, unless it’s just a few hours a week. I think it cuts into your fun and exploration time (as well as your study time) so just enjoy the fact that you have an excuse to not work for a few months!

AB:Did you travel (inside and/or outside the host country) while studying abroad? Can you give us some pointers on how to travel on a budget?

JD: Oh my god we traveled SO MUCH! I think we did 13 countries in three months? My advice on traveling on the cheap while abroad is to use Skyscanner to find the super cheapo flights (like Ryanair and EasyJet ones). Also, if you plan on traveling in a big group (20 or so people) look into charter bus options– whether it be just to the airport or all the way to your destination. This could save you a ton of money and city-to-city service is pretty sweet.

AB: What’s your secret to making friends abroad and in a new college?

JD:Find out where you can participate in your hobbies, whether it be by joining a sports team, signing up for a cooking class– whatever. You can meet people with the same interests as you and you can get out of the “American study abroad student bubble”.

AB: Tell us one way in which studying abroad made you the person you are today?

JD: It showed me that a life filled with travel is the only life that I could see for myself. After my study abroad semester, I lived in NYC for a summer, I went to Nicaragua on an alternative spring break trip, and then moved to Italy for a year. And now that I live in London and work for a travel company, I know that traveling will never NOT be a part of my life!

Jessica’s story is one of inspiration. Her embrace of and zest for new adventures and travels laid the foundation for a smooth transition and quick immersion in her study abroad and living abroad experiences. For more information about the study abroad experience, check out



Jessica Dante realized that she was born to travel while studying abroad in Belgium during her junior year of college. Her travel experiences since then include volunteering in Nicaragua, backpacking through Europe, and a year-long adventure in Italy. In addition to being social media specialist, she is the creator of The Abroad Guide, a blog that helps American students make the most of their study abroad experience.


Studying Abroad Can Open the Door to Your Heritage

(photo by:

Studying abroad is a great opportunity for academic and personal growth. But did you know it is also a great way to discover your heritage? I am the granddaughter of a Frenchman who gave up his language and culture to become American. Growing up, it was always difficult to believe that Grandpop was French because, well, he didn’t do anything French! Whenever I saw my grandfather he spoke English; ate American food; celebrated American holidays; and acted like everyone else I knew who was American. For years I thought being French meant having a last name that no one could spell or pronounce. It wasn’t until I began French foreign language studies in high school which continued into college that I only began to merely understand what it meant to be of French heritage. After years of learning about France’s impact on the world in terms of science, history and philosophy, I decided to get some hands -on knowledge and find out what it really means to be French by studying abroad.

In an earlier post (Why Paris was not the ideal host city for me), I mentioned that I had a unique opportunity to not only discover France hands-on but to actually interact with family. This was an amazing excursion into my grandfather’s past; to meet all the people he left behind to start his new life in America over half a century ago. I found out things about my grandfather and my family history that I never would have known had I not studied abroad. If you are able to study abroad in a country where you have long, lost relatives or from where your family originated (even if many centuries ago), I highly recommend it. It will give you an insight into your heritage and maybe into you / your family that you would not have had if not for studying abroad.